Exploring finance roles within a bank
Banks are dynamic and yet complex organisations. As a recent graduate, you might not yet have a clear picture of how a bank operates. This might get you wondering: What are the different departments within the bank? What kinds of roles exist? And which role suits your skills the most? In this article, we'll provide a comprehensive explanation.
To begin with, there’s a fundamental division within the bank: the front end and the back end. In front-end roles, you’re directly interacting with clients, focusing on generating revenue, managing portfolios, and closing deals. This includes areas like private equity, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), investments, and corporate finance. If you’re joining a bank through our programme, you’re likely to find yourself in a back-end role, where financial activities are monitored and controlled.
The 5 key finance roles at the back end of the bank:
As an accounting specialist, you’re at the forefront of financial flows, dealing with the balance of income and expenses. You tackle critical questions like: are we in control of our financial situation? And is our ledger accurate? Answering these questions can be incredibly complex, especially for a large bank.
Within accounting, there are two distinct paths:
- Financial Accounting – external reporting for financial control
- Management Accounting – internal bookkeeping of a company
For those just starting as an accounting specialist, it’s crucial to grasp the complex streams of data.
In today’s world, much of the process is automated, meaning the traditional bookkeeping tasks are reduced. However, it’s increasingly important not only to present a well-balanced ledger but also to understand the origins of your data and how it’s obtained.”
As a reporting specialist, you need to critically assess whether reports are accurate and figure out how to incorporate specific data into these reports. Analytical skills are paramount in this role.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, regulations for banks have become much stricter and more pervasive, making the accurate and appropriate delivery of data even more crucial. Supervisors like the ECB and DNB keep a close watch and want to understand the financial standing of institutions. This means it’s not enough to just produce an impressive report; regulators also want to know the source of the data you’re presenting.
In reporting, your work is cyclical: monthly, quarterly, and annually. The last two weeks of the month are typically busy, while the first two weeks are relatively calm. During these quieter periods, you have the opportunity to look for potential optimisations and improvements in the process.
To excel as a financial controller, a solid understanding of accounting is essential, and it’s common to progress into this role from an accounting background. Here as well, the focus is on the bank’s financial condition, and you will be dealing with annual reports and balance sheets. The scope of work is much broader. By collecting, enriching, and analysing various data sets, you provide advice to management on different aspects. As a controller, you’re actively involved in addressing the challenges within the organisation. You respond to these challenges by devising and implementing concrete solutions.
Unlike an accounting specialist who focuses solely on the economic aspect, a financial controller also engages with the broader business-economic aspect of the bank.
Interested in learning more about this role? Meet Alexander, who works in the finance controlling department at ABN AMRO.
As a business controller, your role is to support the business by providing focused analyses and reports on financial data and business information. You offer advice to management and the board on strategic decisions. Starting directly as a business controller right after your studies is quite uncommon. This position typically requires several years of experience, often gained in areas such as financial control.
As a business analyst, you bridge the gap between daily business operations and change initiatives. You gather requirements from the business and translate them into a functional design. Developers then translate this into a technical design, outlining precisely what needs to be programmed to unlock new data attributes, implement new processes, or modify the application. The business analyst reports to the product owner, who prioritises all desired changes and schedules them into sprints.
In this role, you’ll heavily engage in stakeholder management. You should enjoy having those conversations and require a basic knowledge of finance to facilitate these discussions.
Would you like to learn more about the role of a business analyst? Read more about working as a business analyst.
In roles at the start of the financial stream, the focus is on your analytical skills, such as accounting and reporting. As you progress towards control, stakeholder management becomes increasingly important.
Want to learn more?
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